“Dutchy” John Edwards visiting the Pyramids in Egypt during his time serving in the Mediterranean. (Edwards Family Photo)

“Dutchy” John Edwards visiting the Pyramids in Egypt during his time serving in the Mediterranean. (Edwards Family Photo)

The tales of one-time Oak Bay resident Dutchy Edwards

Athlete-turned-commodore once played tennis with King of Sweden

He played tennis with the King of Sweden, survived an escapade on a Q-boat, and even lived in Oak Bay.

The tales of John “Dutchy” Crispo Inglis Edwards are many, and they live on today thanks to his detailed daily journals.

“When he died [at 82 years of age in 1978], we put everything of his into trunks,” said Helen Edwards, retired Victoria resident and author of The History of Professional Hockey in Victoria. “Eventually, I went through it and his journals are incredible.”

Edwards was already a history fanatic when she uncovered the journals. It took most of the last year to put the book together – Dutchy’s Diaries: Life as a Canadian naval officer, in his own words and it has earned her many exciting reviews from military historians across the country.

READ ALSO: Victoria’s first century of pro hockey captured in new book

“It’s the detail that’s unlike other journals kept from that time,” Edwards said. “Most of the book is first-person, and the stories are not just about his naval experience but on everything, even a toothache. It makes him this human being that we can relate to [and] not just a photo of a naval officer on the wall.”

Reading the journals changed a lot of how Edwards saw her father-in-law.

“I used to see him as an old man, I thought of him as an old man,” Edwards said. “I see him now as this dashing young naval officer and I understand what he talked about, I understand his stories.”

Edwards’ husband, John [Dutchy’s son], died on Feb. 29 this year. It made John happy that he was able to see the book about his father make it to print. The couple presented it two weeks before he died during a book launch at a CFB Naden event.

“It meant a lot to him, and for our children, that he got to see it,” said Edwards, of the couple’s three daughters and one son.

Dutchy was born in Londonderry, Nova Scotia, in 1895, when it was a booming smelting industry. He graduated from the Royal Naval College in Nova Scotia (which was eventually destroyed in the Halifax Explosion of 1917) into the navy during the First World War.

Dutchy was a gifted athlete, and the book talks a lot about tennis and other sports he engaged in.

“In today’s world he probably would have earned a lot of money, but you didn’t then, when things were amateur,” Edwards said.

Most of Dutchy’s war assignments were in the Mediterranean including patrol around the Dardanelles where the British had suffered major losses in Turkey due to poor planning.

“He was in what you would call skirmishes more than he was in sea battles,” Edwards said.

At the time, the British navy was employing Q-ships, or decoys, and Dutchy was set up on one for nearly a month.

“Q-ships were set up to look like innocent little boats, like a fishing boat,” Edwards said. “Men would even dress up, sometimes in women’s clothing. If a submarine or enemy ship came close they had barriers they could quickly remove that expose guns.”

Dutchy escaped the inherit harm of the Q-ships and returned to other ships where he continued his progression through the ranks.

But it was his many exploits away from the war that stand out in his diaries.

In the 1920s he was stationed as an athletics instructor at HMCS Esquimalt and became the “dashing young navy man” who, by the many accounts of his journal, was a “who’s who” to have at the many high society parties in town.

In the 1930s Dutchy was promoted Lieutenant Commander and Commander at Esquimalt.

Dutchy married his wife Dorothy, or Dot, a fine tennis player and the two of them traveled and beat most couples in tennis. During one stop Dutchy was in Malta where he played tennis with the King of Sweden.

Come World War Two, Dutchy was stationed as the athletics instructor at HMCS Cornwallis.

“He was in his 40s, but he would compete with the young soldiers and the reports of the time match that he would often win,” he said.

While Dutchy was at HMCS Naden in 1946 his family lived in Oak Bay until they built their house in North Saanich.

Dutchy retired in 1951 as Commodore from the Canadian Navy. Fast forward a few years and Edwards, dressed as Santa Claus, was assigned the duty of giving out gifts to the four single men at the Department of National Revenue Christmas Party in Victoria. One of the single men was John, her future husband. Shortly after, she met his dad, Dutchy, and mother, Dot.

“He would tell stories that I wasn’t always sure were true, but a lot of them are in these journals and a lot of them have photos,” Edwards said.

The book is available in softcover from Munro’s Books and Bolen Books and on Amazon.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Courage Remembered

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed as Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

What was previously thought to be a flu shot fraud was actually a booking error, West Shore RCMP confirmed Jan. 27. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATED: Flu shot fraud actually booking error by Colwood London Drugs

West Shore RCMP previously said error was work of fraudsters

Victoria police are seeking a young woman suspected of spitting on a bus driver in October 2020. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
VIDEO: Young woman sought after ‘spitting assault’ on Victoria bus driver

Suspect became irate after bus came to a sudden stop

A tip from the public helped Victoria police located and arrest wanted men Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Tips lead police to arrest convicted killer, robber near downtown Victoria

Two men were at large after failing to return to community facility

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 26

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(B.C. government photo)
POLL: Would you like to see restrictions on travel to B.C. from other provinces?

With a host of more virulent strains of COVID-19 appearing across the… Continue reading

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Most Read